Controversial opinion of the day – Lamar Jackson did not play well against the Seahawks. He was off on several throws. His missed some reads. He gave up on routes too early. He was not precise in any way. Yet Jackson made a couple of great throws and some even greater runs, and his dynamic athletic ability enabled him to make a significant impact.
Some games are going to be ugly, defensive struggles. Some might be low scoring and come down to making just a few key plays here and there. Sunday’s game against the Seahawks was one of those games. However, much of Baltimore and Jackson’s struggles were self-inflicted.
On the below incompletion, for instance, this pass break-up may have just seemed like a good defensive play by the cornerback at first glance. Jackson probably should not have even attempted this pass, though. This was first down, and the corner really didn’t bite on the deep-out route. Jackson should have come down to his running back in the flat for an easy 5 yards.
This may not seem like a huge mistake, and it wasn’t, but it’s the plays like these that lead to consistency and keep the offense on schedule.
This next play came on 3rd down. Watch tight end Mark Andrews (#89) to Jackson’s left. He might not have been wide open on this play. However, there was clearly a window. Jackson put the ball on the wrong shoulder given the position of the nearest defender.
Egregious mistake? Certainly not. But a good throw to Andrews’ right shoulder gets 6 for the Ravens.
This next play was another 3rd down. The Seahawks were telegraphing that they were playing Tampa-2 coverage. One of the soft spots in Tampa-2 is the short middle of the field – basically the area that the middle linebacker vacated to get vertical. Jackson had an easy 1st down here if he took it. Instead, he threw the out-route from the slot to his left into a cover-2 corner.
Either Jackson misread the coverage or thought he could squeeze in a tight throw and get the first down. This ended up being a completion, but short of the first down. The Ravens punted.
These are the types of plays that could have made a more significant impact on the game had Baltimore’s defense not generated 14 points of its own on the afternoon. You might say think that we are nitpicking. However, these are just a few plays out of several where Jackson was not sharp on Sunday. It’s not Jackson completed 25 of 30 passes, and we’re cherry picking his few incompletions. He completed 9 of 20 passes, a stat line that matches up with what we saw on film.
Now let’s get to the good stuff from Jackson’s day, because there was also plenty of that. Below, you can see Jackson use his legs to outrun a blitzing Seattle defender. The Seahawks game-planned to bring some blitz pressure with their defensive backs so they could match Jackson’s speed. The 2nd-year quarterback had other ideas, though.
A few plays later, the Ravens used play action out of the pistol. This sucked up Seattle linebackers K.J. Wright just enough to let tight end Mark Andrews get on top of him. Jackson then made an incredibly accurate touch pass.
The below 3rd down came with just over 11 minutes remaining and the Ravens clinging to a one-score lead. Jackson again used his legs to make the Seahawks pay for playing man coverage against him.
Given Jackson’s imprecision throwing the ball, one of the best coverage approaches against him is to play man-press and force him to make stick throws into tight windows. Of course, the problem with man coverage is that defenders turn their backs to the quarterback. That is a dangerous proposition given Jackson’s running ability, as you saw on Sunday.
This next scramble, which came just two plays later, illustrates exactly what you get and what you sometimes miss with a quarterback who has a tendency to pull it down and run. Jackson faced immediate pressure here. He ultimately escaped and made a great play, one that will likely end up on every Ravens highlight video this year.
At the same time, Jackson easily could have just moved left, reset his feet, and refocused his attention downfield. Had he done that, he would have found wide receiver Seth Roberts wide open for a touchdown (You can see that the cornerback responsible for the deep 3rd of the field to Robert’s side had crashed down towards the #2 receiver, leaving Roberts all alone).
That’s the trade off you sometimes get with a quarterback who has such dynamic running ability.
Right now, it appears that the Ravens might be the only team standing between New England and a relaxed jaunt through the AFC into yet another Super Bowl. Baltimore might have the 2nd-ranked offense in the NFL, but they’ll need more precision and consistency if they are going to compete with a team like the Patriots. We’ll find out in two short weeks how well they measure up.
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